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Sports background serves Burrell AD well

| Sunday, Aug. 7, 2011

Huston Middle School assistant principal Brian Ferra possesses a varied background in athletics, ranging from playing three sports in high school to wrestling at Gannon University to serving as a PIAA referee.

So when Ferra added the duties of Burrell High School athletic director to his job as principal, he stepped into familiar territory.

"I'm excited," said Ferra, 38, of Natrona Heights. "I have a passion for athletics, and I feel I can keep the balance between my administrative duties. It will be a challenge, but I think I'll be able to handle it as well as possible."

At the Burrell School Board meeting June 21, previous athletic director Amy Norris was furloughed and her duties were transferred to Ferra. Norris was being paid $24,000. Ferra, who was approved by a 7-1 vote, will receive $10,000 in addition to his principal's salary.

The move was part of the district's cost-cutting effort following the loss of nearly $1 million in state education subsidies. School districts around the state are facing similar budgetary challenges.

Ferra said most of the planning work, such as scheduling, is complete for Burrell's fall sports. He and athletic secretary Kathie Spahr soon will start working on the winter and spring seasons.

One of the first major pieces of business will be hiring a varsity wrestling coach to replace Ryan Yates, who resigned soon after last season.

Class AA Burrell is widely considered one of the top wrestling programs in the state. The Bucs have captured five consecutive WPIAL championships and seven overall, as well as a state title in 2008.

A handful of candidates were interviewed for the coaching position, according to Ferra.

Burrell School Board is scheduled to meet Tuesday evening and Aug. 16.

"We anticipate filling the position soon," he said. "We have a candidate we're going to take to the next board meeting."

Because of current economic conditions, Burrell could begin cutting nonsection events to save on travel and other expenses this coming school year, according to Ferra. Matchups outside of section competition have no bearing on which teams qualify for the WPIAL playoffs.

"We might not be playing every game and match we can," Ferra said. "We're trying to be conservative."

Ferra played football, wrestling and track and field at Blairsville High School before graduating in 1991. He received a partial scholarship to wrestle at Gannon.

Ferra has been a football referee — doing mainly Class AAAA and AAA games — for about 10 years, and a wrestling referee for about twice as long. He has worked four times at the state wrestling championships. He said he won't officiate any football games this fall but could do a few wrestling tournaments in the winter.

"I'm just trying to keep everything on track and running as smoothly as possible," Ferra said.

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